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The Oliver Lamp

an exploration of creation, polyhedra, and possibilities within a design space


Oliver Ryo St. John

On June 23rd 2018, my son Oliver was born. So much has been written and expressed about the experience of becoming a parent. I am not going to try. Not here. I just want to acknowledge my beautiful wife, Reiko.

I am in awe of your selfless love and limitless strength.

Thank you.

Over the past thirty days and thirty nights, we have had weird hours. It’s been a velocious daze of diapers, dishes, and the dawn light of Encinitas mornings. In between the chores and sporadic snores. We have listened to a lot of music. Feasted on a lot of take-out.

And I have felt a creative surge.

So with the inspiration of archetypal geometries, the anonymous assistance of open-source ideas, free plugins, and a 3D printer. I designed The Oliver Lamp, in bleary eyed, two hour sessions between feedings.


A Creator Culture

participation in the crystallization of a worthy cultural structure

Since my youth of matchbox derbies, tech classes, baking soda volcanos, and qBasic code. I just love to build things. Material output – physical and digital – makes my day complete and gives me stories to tell. Objects and knowledge to share and collaborate with my friends. I am most fulfilled in moments leading up to, and directly following, the creation of a something new. This is a lesson and I learn it over and over. Funny these lessons we continually learn. It’s easy to see failure in a lesson re-learned As if we forgot some wisdom we once held, or somehow lost that thread.

I hope this is not the case.

I hope the re-learning is additive, a participation in – and crystallization of – a worthy cultural structure. Something worth learning and sharing over and over.


The Regular Dodecahedron

“mind-bending mathematical variations and utilizations”

I love thrift stores. The discarded and scrappy shelves of ephemera, craft, and crap. Recently, I found a vintage lamp of complex wooden joinery forming a regular dodecahedron. This shape has a rich history and mind-bending mathematical variations and utilizations. It looks symmetrical from all views, but two, and it's edges and vertices seem to something

I wanted it.

So I shelled out the twenty dollars and it came home with me.

RhinoPolyhedra and Intralattice

It implies volumetric possibilities; and limitations”

I have not 3D modeled in Rhino actively since 2012. I have fully lost my chops and I want them back. I set the goal to model a regular dodecahedron, and quickly found RhinoPolyhedra. This free plugin immediately automated this goal. I love automation, and highly recommend this useful tool. With this easy win I needed a new goal. I zeroed in on learning Intralattice.

Intralattice is a super cool open source project that emerged from McGill University in 2015. Intralattice helps author forms comprised of repeating unit-cell arrayed in a “design-space.” I love the term design-space. It implies volumetric possibilities; and limitations. Voxel

Intralattice is controlled through the Grasshopper node-graph interface available natively in Rhino 6. A bit tricky for the uninitiated, but intuitive once you grok the logic. The documentation was quite thorough and I had the basics down in less than an hour. Now I needed something to build. I decided to a “design space” from two surfaces along each skeletal edges of the regular dodecahedron, and propagate a lattice within those volumes.

The rest of the process was pure exploration.


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